Under Armour, ESPN paying nonprofits to convert Baltimore’s vacant lots into rec space

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A formerly vacant lot at Greenmount and Whitridge avenues. Photo by Eli Pousson, via Flickr.

Cable TV’s largest sports network and South Baltimore athletic apparel maker Under Armour are offering hundreds of thousands in funding to nonprofits in Baltimore, Philadelphia and Los Angeles to convert vacant lots into play space.

A request for proposals for the RePlay program opened yesterday. It invites local organizations to apply for $10,000 planning grants or $75,000 building grants, both of which would go toward turning vacant areas into basketball courts, playgrounds and other facilities designed to keep kids active. ESPN is working with Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), a community development finance nonprofit, on the initiative, and the network and both Under Armour are funding it.

The total funding pool will be $400,000, according to an announcement.

“Too many children aren’t able to participate in sports due to the lack of access to safe places to play for underserved youth,” said Kevin Martinez, vice president of ESPN Corporate Citizenship, in a release. “ESPN is excited to team up with Under Armour and LISC through the RePlay program to help improve access so that everyone can get involved and realize the benefits of sport.”

The RFP says eligible nonprofits must be 501(c)(3)-registered, be at least three years old, cater to neighborhoods “consisting primarily of low and moderate-income families and individuals” and “have a proven track record in real estate development and parks or youth programming,” among other criteria.

If picked, LISC says it will help the awardees and their communities with technical aspects of the project, “assist them from the predevelopment and construction phases to project completion.”

Applications are due May 15.

ESPN pitched in for Baltimore last summer, bringing the cable-televised final two rounds of The Basketball Tournament to Coppin State University. Tournament organizers worked with host and Baltimore son Carmelo Anthony to hold a “Day of Giving,” which included cleanup events in 12 city neighborhoods as well as a job fair at Coppin State.

Ethan McLeod
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